The Art Forger

The Art Forger

by B.A. Shapiro

Overview: Almost twenty-five years after the infamous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—still the largest unsolved art theft in history—one of the stolen Degas paintings is delivered to the Boston studio of a young artist. Claire Roth has entered into a Faustian bargain with a powerful gallery owner by agreeing to forge the Degas in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But as she begins her work, she starts to suspect that this long-missing masterpiece—the very one that had been hanging at the Gardner for one hundred years—may itself be a forgery. The Art Forger is a thrilling novel about seeing—and not seeing—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas.

Linda Smither (07/05/16): Thanks Women's Book Reviews for all of your reviews on this book. I found it charming! The history of the art heist, the technicalities of oil painting, the appreciation of Edgar Degas (and others artists) were fresh topics for this reader. The story line was unpredictable. Four Stars!
Rating: ****

Judy Stanton (06/23/16): After having read The Muralist by BA Shapiro, I was encouraged to read The Art Forger by fellow book club members who thought this was the better of the two books. Totally agree! I found this to be a compelling page turner that kept calling me back to finish. I have to admit I love historical fiction, and found it so interesting to get a sneak peak into the art world. I liked the explanations of forgery vs copying and the details on the process made it feel more authentic. The protagonist's ups and downs seem so real for artists who can be obscure one day and renowned the next, especially in the wake of publicity...good or bad! Both novels feature links to the past and unsolved mysteries that impact people today. Really enjoyed this book!
Rating: ****

Dale Israel (11/15/13): I guess there's a party pooper in every crowd! Sorry ladies, but this book just didn't do it for me. I'll tell you why. First, I'm a Southern gal and have no ties to Boston so there was no connection there. It seemed to me that the author used the main character as a vehicle to spout off facts about art sounded like a glorified book report. Pardon the pun but I'm a broad strokes kinda a person...give me an overview about how to reproduce a painting, I don't need or want all the minutiae. Lastly, it was a fairly predictable story line with little action or conflict (I didn't say NO action or conflict...I said little). Halfway through the book it did become more interesting but by that point I had already scouted out my next book and was rushing through this one so I could read it (For those of you who are interested, it's Lee Smith's Guests on Earth--loving it!) Did I hate this book? No. Did I love this book? No. Was it just okay? Yes. However it seems as though I'm in the minority so perhaps it's just me. I guess that's why there's so many "flavors" of books out there! Using Debbie's rating system I'd give it a 3+. As a former college professor, I'd give it a B-.
Rating: ***+

Judy Copek (09/23/13): Just want to second what other reviewers have said. Shapiro was spot on in her descriptions of Boston's Elizabeth Stewart Gardiner museum and Boston neighhorhoods. The story was so suspenseful and absorbing and it was educational as well, about art forgery as well as copying great paintings. The novel won the New England Independent Booksellers' best novel of the year award recently, deservedly so. My husband, who rarely reads fiction,liked it, too.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss (09/16/13): I totally agree with Gail's assessment of this book. I really enjoyed it! The interspersing of fictional characters with a true historical event, the heist of various paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston some 25 years ago, made for fascinating reading. Clair Roth is an extremely talented artist who spends most of her time working for rendering reproductions of famous paintings for on line sales to pay her bills. She has become somewhat of a Degas expert copier. She is offered the opportunity to have a one-woman show at a prestigious gallery if she will make a copy of Degas' "After the Bath" from the original for the gallery owner. This happens to be one of the paintings stolen so many years ago. How did the gallery owner get posession of this painting? Should she do it? Will she do it? Is it actually the original masterpiece after all? Secrets abound and the reader is not sure who is being honest and who is not. The book is a lot of fun. Plus, it is fascinating to learn all the details of what is takes to forge a masterpiece.
Rating: ****+

Gail Reid (07/17/13): Claire Roth, an aspiring painter and new fine arts graduate, has an extraordinary job. In her dilapidated studio, she works for, copying Old Masters for customers who want high quality, authentically rendered reproductions.

When a prestigious Boston gallery owner approaches Claire for her creative skills in exchange for her first one-woman show and much needed funds, has Claire made a deal with the devil? It is not illegal to copy paintings but it is illegal to sell forgeries as original works. What if the dealer is not the devil but a Robin Hood who wants to return an original painting to the museum it was stolen from two decades before?

The painting is Degas' famous "After the Bath", stolen in a heist from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the early nineties.

There are multiple plot lines told in interspersed chapters to keep this novel moving quickly including Claire's good and bad decisions. The author does a bang up job of explaining the techniques of reproducing paintings and creating canvasses authentic to their era. In a completely different style are chapters in which Isabella Stewart Gardner, a nineteenth century powerhouse in the Boston art world, writes letters to her niece about her passion for acquiring European art and befriending Degas and his contemporaries.

This is a terrific, fast-paced thriller set in the art world. Since I am from Boston, I know the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum well and have followed the search for the stolen paintings that in spite of millions in reward money have never surfaced. That author B.A. Shapiro could create such a compelling fictional story around this event, really kept me engaged. Highly recommended.
Rating: ****

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